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Human Resources

COVID-19 driving demand for Interim Executives

Health Industry Hub | August 10, 2020 |

Human Resources: Organisations are seeking to hire Interim Executives to help manage through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic according to the latest annual Watermark Interim Executive Survey 2020.

Watermark says the use of interims executives – highly skilled people who quickly bring capability, leadership and transformation skills to organisations – has been on the rise in Australia in the past decade. Demand from businesses wanting to hire an Interim Executive has leapt and the number of people actively choosing Interim as a career path has also risen.

The Top Five busiest sector for interims in the past 12 months were:

  1. Government
  2. Not for Profit
  3. Financial Services
  4. Health
  5. Professional Services

Survey respondents believe that as companies recover from the COVID-19 economic instability, Healthcare will have the highest need for interim executives.

“We’ve seen a jump in demand for our interim executives who can deliver specific skills – and the COVID-19 environment has increased that demand,” says Jacinta Whelan Partner at Watermark Interim. “In a market like this, where companies have re-examined their strategies, interims are proving to be a ready solution. That’s why we see interim and the solution it brings to an organisation as a “panacea for a pandemic”.

Turnaround of business unit/function – cost reduction, margin improvement was the underlying business reason for 20% of all respondents for their last assignment – up by 5% from 2019. Over 30% of respondents were involved in either Cultural change/Transformation (17%) or Functional transformation/Upgrade (14%). The key theme for assignment continues to be disruption (competitors, digital) – causing businesses to take out cost, review margins, transform. This theme is likely to continue post COVID-19 as businesses reimagine themselves and operating models.

Ms Whelan pointed to key report findings such as the spike in demand for C-suite Interim Executives, who bring both leadership skills and deep functional expertise, is up 23%. She also highlighted demand for IT, Digital and Data Interims – up 25% – and especially Interims with risk experience.

“It’s notable that demand for Interim Chief Risk Officers is up 42%,” said Ms Whelan. “What that reflects is the pressure on organisations to successfully manage through both a more intensely regulated marketplace but also one involving rapid transformation.”

Watermark leads the interim sector in Australia with a dedicated practice accounting for 50% of the business alongside their search business. They have experienced five-fold growth over ten years.

“As businesses face shorter cycles, they need to provision the right skills quickly,” said Ms Whelan. “That’s been accelerated during COVID-19 and we only see that continuing.”

She said that post COVID-19, she expects strong ongoing demand for interim executives especially in high demand areas such Finance, HR, Risk and Digital and skills such as leveraging their experience, managing complex stakeholder engagement, quickly demonstrating capability and navigating politics.

“The demand for interims with these particular skills is telling us that we are in a world undergoing rapid transformation and disruption and we are moving quickly to digital. If there’s one standout lesson we can see from COVID-19 it is that being flexible and responding quickly is vital. That’s why interim is now a very credible and sought after business solution.”


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